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Peter King MMQ

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How 'bout that coach?

Despite all the expected job openings, Jimmy Johnson likely won't return

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The following two questions and answers reveal everything you need to know about Jimmy Johnson's coaching future:

On Friday, I asked Johnson: "Let's say I'm an owner of a team that has a real chance to win next year. I come to you and say, 'Here's a three-year, $30 million contract.' What would you say?''

"No,'' Johnson said. "Money's not going to do it. Obviously I wouldn't consider anything unless it was extremely high dollars. But having said that, I cannot imagine any possible scenario that would make me consider going back to coaching. Really, it would have to be the perfect situation.''

"What is the perfect situation?'' I asked.

"There is a perfect job for me,'' he said.

Now I'm eagerly waiting for Johnson to spill the beans.

"Living in Islamorada, here in the Florida Keys during the week, and then flying to Los Angles to do FOX on the weekends,'' he said.

You should never say never, and I could see Johnson, someday, giving coaching one more spin -- but only if, let's say, his comfortably-in-the-millions stock portfolio gets whacked hard by come economic downturn, and if, let's say, some owner offers Johnson 10 percent of the team and $8 million a year to come run the show for four years. But can you see that happening? It's highly doubtful. And, to me, there is no way Johnson could ever have the same desire he had in Dallas 13 years ago. I thought his drive had waned in Miami late in his Dolphins tenure, when he would talk about stock deals as excitedly as he talked about beating New England.

So if you're an owner in Atlanta or San Diego or New Jersey, and you think you can interest Johnson with $6 million a year just because that would trump Steve Spurrier's deal as the richest NFL coaching contract ever, I would tell you don't bother, for two reasons: Johnson won't go. And, even if he did, there's a good chance you wouldn't get the same shark Jerry Jones hired in 1989.

An owner would be better off spending his money on Nick Saban. Shelling out $6 million a year for Saban will be a better investment than the Redskins' investment in Spurrier. But that's a column for another day.

I asked Johnson about the two things I'd heard might some day push him back to the sidelines.

*His nest egg has been cut in half, or worse, by the fluctuations in the market. "No,'' he said. "My portfolio is in the best shape it's been in the last three or four years. Not as good as what it was five years ago, but ... market-wise, the last year and a half, I'm doing good. In about two minutes, I'm going to see G.E. for a $32,000 profit. As soon as it hits $30.42, I'm gonna sell.''

*He misses the competition that only the NFL can provide. "Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like Sunday afternoons,'' he said, "but that has nothing to do with me going back. [With competition comes] the expectations. I'm on the Internet all the time, and I read [something about me possibly taking] the Atlanta coaching job. 'Pros: Won two Super Bowls, and the [collegiate] national championship. Cons: Didn't win the Super Bowl in Miami.' I was in the playoffs three years in Miami. But that's what the expectations are. If I took another job, the expectations would be to win another Super Bowl. But the reality is there are a lot of guys who win a lot of games but not the Super Bowl, and that doesn't mean they haven't done a good job. One thing I don't miss is the intense scrutiny by everybody. I've talked to so many coaches in the last year. It's hard for me to find one with a smile on his face -- Steve Spurrier, Jim Fassel. It's really hard to find anybody smiling.

"The market,'' he said, "still gives me the fun of competition. Look at G.E. now -- $30.44 a share. Ha ha ha. I left money on the table.''

We were about to get off the phone when Johnson reminded me of a day in January 1996, down in the Keys, when he was weighing job offers from Tampa Bay and Miami. I visited him there and had brought with me the cap sheets of both the Bucs and Dolphins. Based on the numbers, the Tampa job seemed better -- the Bucs had more young talent and a cap that was $10 million lighter than Miami's. But he couldn't get over one thing that day: the difference between Dan Marino and Trent Dilfer. I told him he was worrying too much about the quarterback, but, hey, it was his life.

Friday Johnson laughed about that discussion. "I should have listened to you when you showed me the salary cap of Tampa and Miami that day,'' he said.

He would have never been happy in Tampa. He'd have been longing for the other coast of Florida. Just like he'll never be happy, probably ever again, in the coaching grinder.

Offensive Player of the Week

Tennessee QB Billy Volek, who stepped in for Steve McNair and had a McNairian day: 26 of 41, 295 yards, two touchdown passes, one touchdown run. Volek's performance makes you wonder if Jeff Fisher should have sat McNair two Monday nights ago, when Tennessee's two-game losing streak began. Volek showed nice touch and a good-enough medium-to-deep arm.

Defensive Player of the Week

Chicago DB Charles Tillman, the second-round rookie from Louisiana-Lafayette, who made the kind of defensive play a cornerback might not make his entire career, at the biggest possible time. With the Bears up 13-10 in the final minute of the game, and the Vikes driving for the winning touchdown -- and, don't worry, all that was on the line for Minnesota was the division title -- Daunte Culpepper threw a perfect ball to Randy Moss in the right corner of the end zone. It looked like Moss, with Tillman right on him, caught it cleanly. But as they went down a millisecond after the catch, Tillman, with one hand, swiped the ball from Moss. I mean, you talk about saving a game. Tillman has given the 6-8 Bears a ghost of a chance (Washington, at Kansas City) to finish what should have been a terrible season at .500.

Coach of the Week

Green Bay coach Mike Sherman. Call me sentimental. But when Sherman brought a wheelchair-bound U.S. soldier -- who had served in Iraq and was in San Diego to watch the Pack's win over the Chargers -- into the locker room after the game ... and then gave him the game ball ... well, on the day Saddam Hussein was captured, no coach made a better call.

Stat of the Week

Props to my press-box neighbor in Gillette Stadium, Seth Wickersham, for spotting this wonderful nugget: Forty-two minutes into the Falcons-Colts game, Peyton Manning had more touchdown passes than Michael Vick had completions. Five to four.

How about Manning's numbers 12 minutes into the third quarter: 25 of 30, 290 yards, five touchdowns, no picks. He's looking pretty MVPish to me.

It's a baseball factoid, from the Red Sox nerd.

The numbers of Mariano Rivera, Yankees saves guy extraordinaire, as compared to those of new Sox saves man Keith Foulke, since the turn of the century:

Rivera: 17-16, 2.37 ERA, 154 saves, .875 save percentage.

Foulke: 18-15, 2.33 ERA, 130 saves, .890 save percentage.

I'm not saying Foulke's better. I'm just saying Foulke's stats are comparable.

"If you're married to one girl and have another one stashed, I think you'd be thinking a lot about the other one ... not that I've ever done that.''

--Minnesota owner Red McCombs, to Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times. McCombs was a little upset that defensive coordinator George O'Leary took the Central Florida head coaching job last week while the Vikings still had three regular-season games remaining. O'Leary will continue to coach the Vikings D until season's end, then leave for Orlando, though he'll obviously be spending some off hours on Central Florida business.

There's not a lot better in the world of travel than taking the Amtrak Acela from Newark through southern New England on a sunny Saturday up to Foxboro (actually, Providence, then a rental car to Foxboro). Getting on in Newark, you pass through: the swamps of Jersey, south of the Meadowlands; the gigantic rock formation near Secaucus that lies beyond the center field fence of a softball field where Mary Beth played in sixth grade; the Queens and Bronx neighborhoods where kids grow up hard; the undulating fairways of a beautiful golf course in Old Greenwich; the right-center field parking lot (or a few yards beyond it) at a charming little Independent League ballpark for the Bridgeport Bluefish, where the grass is still green (if it was 30 degrees warmer, the park would have been a heck of a nice train detour); the southern Connecticut marshes and woods (hurtling through some, with the Long Island Sound on your right, at 100 miles an hour, feeling autobahnish); water, water everywhere, on both sides of the train; the charming tiny downtown of Mystic, just before you start to take the left turn up into woodsy Rhode Island; a partially frozen pond, not far, by my instinct, from Misquamicut Beach, with a seagull standing on the ice.

One of the great things about living on the East Coast and doing this job is having a fifth of the league -- the Patriots, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Ravens and Redskins -- within such a short commuting distance, and having the chance to take the train three or four times a year to work.

Fired Atlanta coach Dan Reeves.

MMQB: You're 59. That's still a good age for coaching, isn't it?

Reeves: I'll be 60 in January, and a lot of people coach a long way past 60 in the NFL. Would I be interested? I don't know. I can't say I'll never coach again. Can I still coach? Absolutely. I know how to lead men. I know how to be successful.

MMQB: With 201 victories, are you surprised that you stand so high on the all-time wins list (including playoffs) -- just nine behind Chuck Noll and 21 behind Paul Brown?

Reeves: It blows me away. I passed Chuck Knox recently, and he was one of my idols. Chuck Noll, wow. I really wanted to be like him as a coach. And Paul Brown. What can you say? That stuff sends chills up and down my spine. I've always known I wasn't God's gift to coaching. To be in the same category with those guys humbles me.

MMQB: It sounds like you'll listen to coaching offers.

Reeves: Who knows? If I don't coach another game, I'm perfectly content with what I've accomplished.

1. New England (12-2). Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

2. Philadelphia (10-3). Monday's is the biggest game in the Home Field Derby down the stretch of this season.

3. St. Louis (11-3). Marc Bulger made some very Kurt Warner-like throws to beat the Seahawks.

4. Indianapolis (11-3). Edgerrin James is starting to look like the old Edge, isn't he?

5. Kansas City (12-2). I have no idea what steamrolling the Lions means, except I know it would have been trouble if Detroit played the Chiefs close

6. Tennessee (9-5). Keith Bullock turned the game against Buffalo around. If he didn't sack/strip/recover when the Bills were driving, already up 17-6, I think Tennessee would have lost.

7. Denver (9-5). The MRI felt around the Rockies is about to be taken on the bent knee of Clinton Portis.

8. Baltimore (8-6). This is probably too high for a team that went to Oakland and couldn't take care of business, but tell me: Who would you put here?

9. Miami (8-5). Prove it, Dolphs.

10. Cincinnati (8-6). I can see it now: Corey Dillon to Dallas the day before the draft, for Dallas' second-round pick.

11. Dallas (9-5). Not to take anything away from Troy Hambrick's huge day, but did it look to you like he was running against a really hard-trying Washington defense? Sure didn't look that way to me, the second half.

12. Carolina (9-5). Read the Tampa thing just below. Then exhale.

13. Tampa Bay (7-7). The Bucs are back, baby. Gut feeling: Tampa and Seattle fight it out for the final wild-card spot. Let's say Tampa beats Atlanta and Tennessee (a big "let's say'') to finish 9-7, and Seattle (8-6) splits with Atlanta (win) and San Francisco (loss) to finish 9-7. The two teams would be tied for the sixth wild-card spot. Both would be 7-5 in conference games. My math tells me they would each be 2-3 in common games. Then you go to strength of victory, which I don't recall being involved in a tiebreaker in recent years. Tampa now is ahead in that category, .459 to .413. So the Bucs have a shot to open the playoffs -- believe it or not, at their old friends the Panthers, who figure to be third seed in the NFC.

14. Green Bay (8-6). Perhaps one of you guys should cover LaDainian Tomlinson when he comes out of the backfield like that.

15. New Orleans (7-7). The Saints' playoff future will be decided Sunday at Jacksonville, which, by the way entered the weekend as the No. 2 rushing team in football and the No. 2 team against the rush

THE NFL'S TV RULES STINK. From Paul Amin of Fairlawn, N.J.: "Please rip the NFL's archaic and draconian television rules. On a weekend when many New Yorkers were snowed in with nothing to do but watch football we were stuck with Giants-Redskins and Bills-Jets. These rules do not encourage game attendance because all the contests are sold out anyway. The BCS may end up going away because of media criticism. Start the train rolling against these idiotic TV rules.''

Paul, consider yourself heard. I pity you the last couple of weeks, unless you have DirecTV.

YOUR RANKINGS ARE AS BAD AS THE NEW YORK TIMES''. From Dave Singleton of St. Charles, Mo: "You complain about the New York Times poll that has Oklahoma behind Texas despite Oklahoma beating Texas, but last week you had Kansas City behind Baltimore despite the fact that the Chiefs beat the Ravens earlier in the season. You can't have it both ways.''

Yes, I can. Texas lost to Oklahoma by 52. Baltimore lost to K.C. on a fourth-quarter punt return. After a weekend in which the Ravens steamrolled the Bengals and the Chiefs were steamrolled by Denver, I know a lot of people who would have been as insane as I was.

YOU ARE CLUELESS ABOUT THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, KING. From Daniel Sasson of Durham, N.C.: "How can you say that a playoff system for the BCS 'would make a further mockery of the concept of these student athletes?' For one thing, all the games would be played in December during the vast majority of students' winter break. Secondly, the NCAA has created the most exciting event in sports with the basketball tournament in March (which, by the way, is usually a fairly important time in the school year). Is that tournament also 'a mockery of student-athletes?'"

Interesting point. First of all, the NCAA basketball tournament, while tremendously exciting, already does make a mockery of the players who try to be students. Basketball teams drag their kids out of school enough already, and March Madness just makes things worse. Secondly, let's talk about the length of the college football season. Practice begins in early August. Games begin at the end of that month. Let's look at one team, Kansas State. The Wildcats played their first game Aug. 23; that's two weeks before the start of the NFL season. K-State plays its last game in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State on Jan. 2, a week after the NFL regular season ends. Fifteen games in 20 weeks. So a player at Kansas State will be working his schedule around football obligations and fatigue the entire fall semester. Imagine if the OSU-KSU winner had to play in another round of playoffs, or a championship game, the following weekend (which is what my brethren at Sports Illustrated think would happen in such a championship derby.) Ohio State's winter term begins Jan. 5 this upcoming year. So not only would the Buckeyes players have had to schedule everything about their school world around football for the entire fall term; they'd miss the first week of classes in January to play in the national title game. I don't think Division I would manage its tournament the way Division I-AA and II and III manage theirs-- which is playing the postseason games in December -- because of the pull of the bowl system. The bowl system is centered around the holidays.

PATS FANS ARE REALLY SOMETHING. From Mike Cherny of Newton, Mass.: "After seeing the snow show that New England fans put on following Tedy Bruschi's touchdown (which was one of the more amazing scenes I have ever witnessed), is there any doubt that the Pats loyalists are some of the most dedicated in sports? But more important, given that the Patriots are now in the driver's seat for home field advantage, is there any team that would want to come into Foxboro and deal with a crowd that's so supportive of its team that it would sit in snow banks and freezing cold?''

Two points: I was absolutely amazed to see that stadium 75 percent filled. Amazing. A real, legit blizzard, and the people show up and sit in mountains of snow. What incredible fans. Secondly, I really like New England's defense right now, and it's defense more than the site of the game that determine who wins in mid-January.

YOU CAN BARELY WRITE, AND I QUESTION YOUR TASTE IN FOOD, TOO. From Bill Jones of Annandale, Va.: "You came to Baltimore and decided to eat at Legal Sea Foods (a New England-based chain) and have New England clam chowder and fried shrimp? Have you heard about the local food called crabs?When in Baltimore, you eat Maryland crab soup and crab cakes!''

In the press box during the Bengals-Ravens contest I had two marvelous crab cakes, which, I might add, were the biggest treat I've had while covering a game all season.

YOU KNOW, THERE'S A QUESTION FROM A BEARS FAN IN MY MAILBOX EVERY WEEK. SIX OR EIGHT OF THEM, USUALLY. From Sam Athens of Irving, Texas: "With Nick Saban expected to sign an extension with LSU, who becomes the frontrunner for the Bears coaching job next next season, assuming Dick Jauron is fired after the year? What do you hear about Lovie Smith? As a disciple of Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay system, where Chicago GM Jerry Angelo also spent a lot of time, might he be the guy to take over?"

Angelo will try to convince Saban to come north. The GM will definitely consider Smith, who Cris Collinsworth tells me reminds him of Marvin Lewis. I also Angelo will look at Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the NFL weekend:

a. I don't know if it's possible for a punter to contract Chuck Knoblauch disease, but if it is, Ken Walter has it. The Patriots' punter could really hurt them in the postseason.

b. The Wade Phillips Era is off to a whale of a start.

c. Uh, Jack Del Rio? It's customary in snowstorms to wear a coat of some kind.

d. It looked like Steve Spurrier gave Bill Parcells the ol' wet-fish handshake after the debacle at FedEx Field.

e. Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud is trying to fight his way onto my AP All-Pro ballot.

f. Aaron Brooks has one terrific arm.

g. Was there a more predictable outcome in recent NFL history than Chiefs 45, Lions 17?

h. Well, maybe Bucs 16, (beleaguered) Texans 3.

2. I think Rudi Johnson is better than Corey Dillon. I'm not just saying that because Johnson had another absurd day (21 rushes for 174 yards and two touchdowns) against the Niners Sunday, but because he shows safety speed, which the Bengals didn't think he had, and he because fights for yards better than I've seen Dillon do so this year. The Bengals should ride the Rudester the rest of the way.

3. I think I will never understand how players getting paid a lot of money can mail it in the way some Redskins did against Dallas on Sunday. Maybe I don't understand the science of route-running, but Laveranues Coles sure looked like he gave up on a pattern during a second-half play in which Tim Hasselbeck was intercepted.

4. I think I'd love to be a fly on the wall at Redskins Park today when Steve Spurrier and Dan Snyder pass each other in the hall.

5. I think Bill Belichick might have a problem on his hands with star defensive end Richard Seymour. The Patriots have a policy, evidently not a well-known one, that if a player misses two days of practice during the week, he doesn't start the following Sunday. Seymour had to attend a funeral during the week that caused him to miss most of Wednesday's and Thursday's workouts, and so, per policy, Belichick benched him for the first quarter Sunday against Jacksonville. Seymour was furious after the game, emotionally telling writers who inquired why he didn't start that they'd "have to ask coach Belichick." Which led to this exchange with reporters:

Reporter: "Coach, Richard Seymour had a big game, but he did not start. I just wondered why."

Belichick: "Coaching decision."

Reporter: "Was he benched?"

Belichick: "It was a coaching decision."

Reporter: "Did the coach decide to bench him?"

Belichick: "No. No. No."

Reporter: "It was just unusual. I mean, he's a star player."

Belichick: "No. Sorry to hear everybody can't understand that, but I do what I think is best for the team. That is all."

In a case like this, why can't a coach simply say: "He missed two days of practice to attend a funeral, which is fine, but when you miss two days of practice for anything, you don't start on this team"?

6. I think I have no idea if Kevin Faulk or Antowain Smith will be able to run the ball in the postseason for New England, possible No. 1 seed in the AFC. And that is a bit worrisome, wouldn't you say? The combined rushing average of the two: 3.3 yards per carry.

7. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. I can find no fault with the choice of Jason White for the Heisman. He threw 40 touchdowns passes against only eight interceptions. Good for the voters for not allowing one bad game to keep the kid from winning the award after he had so many good games.

b. Coffeenerdness: The ballots are in, and the championship egg nog latte of the season has been found. It's sold at the Starbucks on Thayer Street in Providence, R.I., where a score of Brown students were studying and writing and caffeining Sunday at 9:15 a.m. You are lucky students, Brownies.

c. Now I hear the Orioles are going to sign Javy Lopez and Vlad Guerrero to supplement the Miguel Tejada deal. Is any team outside the AL East in play this winter?

d. At some point next season, Miguel Cairo is going to play 10 games in a row for the Yankees while Bernie Williams or Jason Giambi sits. Or both. Not sure if I'd be adding Kenny Lofton to this combustible mix if I were the Yankees .

8. I think everyone will count out the Bengals against the Rams Sunday, but consider this: Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick will both look awfully fast on the carpet of Eddie Jonesville, and Jon Kitna's got the gun to get it to them. The score of that game is going to be 34-31, and either team could hang the 34.

9. I think the Ravens had better hope it's the Rams who win, because Cincinnati closes the season with Cleveland at home.

10. I think that you must think I unnecessarily pick on the ESPN Sunday night crew. I don't. At least I try not to. But the Sunday night game is one of only two games I get to watch on television every week (the other being the Monday nighter). I'm sure if I saw other other crews more consistently I'd be commenting on them, too. But Mike Patrick said during the Giants-Saints broadcast that he couldn't figure out how in the world Amani Toomer didn't make the Pro Bowl last season. Toomer had a fine year in 2002. But he was 15th in the league in receptions, third in receiving yards, and tied for ninth in touchdown catches. Four receivers per conference make the game. Three NFC receivers -- Randy Moss (106 catches for 1,347 yards and seven TDs), Terrell Owens (100/1,300/13) and Marty Booker (97/1,189/6) -- were clearly better statistically last season, while Torry Holt (91/1,302/4) and Joe Horn (88/1,312/7), arguably did more. It's strange that Donald Driver, who had but 70 catches, got voted in, but that's the breaks. Toomer was very good -- still is -- but six guys per conference can't suit up for the game, Mike.

This is a truly fascinating game. The Eagles are as hot as a team can be, coming off whackings of Carolina and Dallas. The Dolphins are running into their typical December troubles, losing a game last Sunday -- 12-0 in the snow at New England -- that may well cost Dave Wannstedt his job. But all signs coming out of south Florida this week indicate this is an anxious team team. The Dolphins are playing for their playoff lives this week. Wannstedt and his staff are coaching for their jobs. The Eagles won't be nearly as desperate as Miami, and you have to take that into account when analyzing a game like this. When the talent level between teams is fairly close -- as it is with these two -- in a December matchup like this the desperate club wins most of the time. I expect to see one thing Monday night: clockball. The over/under on Ricky Williams carries in this game is 34. In their last eight games, the Eagles have allowed opponents to rush for 4.4, 4.7, 8.3, 4.5, 6.5, 4.7, 5.2 and 4.4 yards per carry, and for 150, 136, 199, 109, 241, 131, 125 and 180 yards. Forget Miami's quarterback problems. This is a game for Williams to either win or lose, and I think he'll come up pretty big. Such as 35 carries, 152 yards big. Just as important, I think Miami will hold the Eagles to nine possessions. That's what clockball is all about. My pick: Dolphins, 16-14.

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:rotflmao: :rotflmao: :lol: That's funny the same time though, with our play yesterday, we really don't have much to argue about regarding what these moronic writers say. We were flat out awful

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